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Publisher Bart Jackson of Barts Books Ultimate Business Guides interviews author, Lorette Pruden on her book, "Formerly Corporate".

   Lorette, it sounds as if you have, in your own career, labored in the corporate world,
and found it not entirely fulfilling.  Could you tell us about your experiences and what made
you take the plunge into the entrepreneurial realm?

Lorette:  Actually, I enjoyed my corporate career, although of course 
it had its frustrating moments. There are a lot of positives to the corporate structure, one of which is that there IS a structure!

What originally took me into my own business was, first, a corporate merger that eliminated the job I held, and second, the feeling that the buy-out package was an opportunity to find out what life was like outside the oil business, to spend more time with my children, and to spread my wings a bit, so to speak.  I also really wanted to see what I could create out of my life and business experience so far.

As far as structure goes, the new entrepreneur will have to create a structure for him/herself,
and that is often a big stumbling block.  A consultant/coach can be very helpful with that. 

   The number of national startups is rising annually, yet the rate of startup failures
remains about 80 percent.  Could you tell us some of the necessary attitude adjustments
one must make when shifting from employee to entrepreneur?

Lorette:  One of the hardest adjustments I've found is to realize that not everyone else thinks
that what you have to offer is indispensable! A big pitfall is to think that you know what 
your customer (even before you have any) needs or wants.  Another is also connected to
the idea of customers--you need some!  That means you have to sell something, and one
of the hardest mindset shifts, for professionals especially, is to realize that sales is not
beneath them.  Then there is the need to develop a different kind of network than the one
you might have had as an employee.  There's a real art to that, and again, the Formerly Corporate are too often tone-deaf when it comes to building mutually beneficial relationships.

  What are some of the challenges and blunders you see people making when they shift from salaried corporate positions to launching their own business?

Lorette:  Two of the biggest ones  are two sides of the same coin I think.  Some people are arrogant, not to put too fine a spin on it, and don't realize how they come across.  It's important to be confident, of course, but that's different from 'pushing' your solution on to people whose problems you may not have identified. On the other side, some people sell themselves too short, and don't put enough time and energy into identifying just what it is that they bring to the marketplace.  Both of those problems can be greatly alleviated if one seeks advice and counsel from a business coach and/or group of like-minded business owners. 

One example is the person whose second career was to start a coffee shop. Trouble was, she really didn't like people, and was constantly irritated by her customers and their (perfectly normal) human behavior.  Why she chose a retail business, I'll never know.  She went out of business in spite of the fact that there was a need in that location, and the new owners are doing very well!  Another person had a very hard time accepting that he was not on the "buying' side of the desk (is not the one making all the decisions), and also that he didn't have the minions at his disposal that he was used to.

Another challenge is to focus on bringing in revenue, fast and frequently.  Polishing websites, marketing collateral and packaging can be a real time sink, when you haven't really found out if the marketplace is interested in wha
t you have to offer. The 'grand opening' can usually wait until you've tested your business idea and gotten some real sales.

  When the new free-lancer or entrepreneur starts to launch her own firm, how should she leverage former contacts?  How should she present herself and her new company to them?

Lorette:  I think the first thing is to realize that you don't have to sell your products or services to your old network.  They may in fact be very uncomfortable if you take that approach with them.  You may not be a very good salesperson yet, and they may not need or want what you have to sell anyway.  Better, in fact much better, is to approach them as advisors and then referral sources.  Ask if you could try explaining what you want to do and get some feedback.  Do they know of any similar businesses?  What would they add or change or just get rid o in your business description?  What kind of customer would they think good for your business?  Then, maybe you ask for specific referrals.  But even that, I would come back later for, after you've incorporated their suggestions.

Remember, people like to help, but they don't like to be guilt-tripped.

Bart:  The new entrepreneur/freelancer will require a new staff and advisors.  What are the best ways to find 
such aid, and discern those of best value?

Lorette:  I'm a big advocate of three approaches that can leverage the resources of the small business owner, whether brand new to business or more established.

First, you don't have to hire full time employees at the beginning.  I work with my clients to figure out what are the things in their business that only they can do, and then help them find part-time or virtual assistants or free-lancers to do the other work that full-time staff might have done in the corporate world.

The second is to start with the first of your trusted advisors, who can then lead you to others in their network, so you don't have to build your whole network from scratch. Ask at your local business association or networking groups, who is the best business coach in the area or for your kind of business.  I've found that sometimes the traditional advisor doesn't go into the depth about business questions that a coach will.  When people come to me, we talk about the usual advisors-- accountant, bookkeeper, attorney, financial planner--and I have great ones to recommend. But it is equally important to have a group of other business owners, a peer-advisory or mastermind team, who share their challenges and triumphs and lessons learned.  That goes a very long way to getting and keeping a new business on the right path. 

Third, I am actively advocating the idea of 'starburst businesses', where a group of business owners with complementary offerings and needs for each other's services buy and refer each other's services.  
There is more about starburst businesses, building networks, and overcoming Formerly Corporate Outlooks in the book, and I wish all my readers some ah-ha moments in reading it.  And of course, when it comes time to putting their ideas, and mine, into practice--well, that's what a coach is for! 



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